How to Apply for the Bonner Scholarship | Apply Now


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The Bonner Scholarship is an amazing opportunity for students to fund their education while making a difference through community service. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about the Bonner Scholarship including eligibility, requirements, application timeline, award details, tips for applying, and more.

What is the Bonner Scholarship?

The Bonner Scholarship program provides financial assistance and unique service opportunities to deserving students at select colleges and universities across the United States. Established in 1990 by the Corella and Bertram F. Bonner Foundation, this prestigious scholarship aims to reduce financial barriers to education while empowering students to positively impact their local communities.

Students who receive the Bonner Scholarship commit to performing 140 hours of community service per semester and 280 hours during summer breaks. This hands-on service can take many forms – from tutoring children to assisting immigrants to environmental projects and more. The scholarship is a four-year commitment.

Who is Eligible for the Bonner Scholarship?

The Bonner Scholarship has no restrictions based on race, ethnicity, gender or academic interests. To be eligible, you must:

  • Be enrolled or planning to enroll full-time at a participating Bonner college or university
  • Demonstrate significant financial need
  • Show a strong commitment to community service and civic engagement
  • Be eligible for federal need-based financial aid
  • Be a first-year, sophomore, or junior (at some schools)

Bonner partners with over 80 colleges and universities nationwide. Check your school’s website or financial aid office to see if they offer Bonner scholarships.

Bonner Scholarship Requirements

Bonner scholars commit to fulfilling several requirements over the four years of the program:

  • Perform at least 140 hours of community service per semester (280 hours over summer)
  • Participate in weekly skill-building and reflection sessions
  • Engage in civic leadership, service learning courses, and activities
  • Maintain a minimum 2.0 GPA
  • File the FAFSA annually and demonstrate financial need
  • Participate in retreats, meetings, and special programs

Through these activities, Bonner scholars gain skills, experiences, and networks that help them make a bigger impact.

Bonner Scholarship Award Details

The Bonner Scholarship amount varies by college but is usually between $1,000-$4,000 per year. The award can be used flexibly towards tuition, room and board, books, supplies, and other educational expenses.

Some schools may offer additional funding for summer service opportunities or unpaid internships. Bonner scholars also have unique access to AmeriCorps Education Awards worth over $1,200 annually.

Unlike student loans, the Bonner scholarship does not need to be repaid after graduation. It is a four-year commitment contingent on meeting program requirements.

How to Apply for the Bonner Scholarship

The Bonner Scholarship application process opens in October-November for the following academic year. Deadlines are typically in January-February. The process involves:

  • Submitting the general online application
  • Writing short essays on your experiences, interests, and goals
  • Providing two letters of recommendation
  • Completing an interview with program staff

Some colleges allow first-years to apply directly for Bonner while others require completing a year of college first. Check with your target schools for their specific policies.

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Put time into the essays to showcase your dedication to service and how Bonner will help you grow. Letters of recommendation from people familiar with your service experience are key. Visit their Official Website for Details

Tips for Applying for the Bonner Scholarship

Here are some top tips for putting together a strong Bonner Scholarship application:

  • Start early – Give yourself time to submit a polished application by the deadline.
  • Research the program – Understand Bonner’s mission and values to align your goals.
  • Track your service hours – Quantify your experience with details like hours, activities, and impact.
  • Get specific in your essays – Go beyond generalities to share concrete stories and passions.
  • Choose recommenders carefully – Select people who can speak in-depth about your service commitment.
  • Communicate why financial assistance is crucial – Share how Bonner funding would impact your education.
  • Practice interview skills – Reflect on motivations, growth areas, and future goals.

With thoughtful preparation, you can submit an application that gets you one step closer to becoming a Bonner scholar.

What majors or areas of study do you have to pursue as a Bonner scholar?

Here are a few key things to know about majors and areas of study as a Bonner Scholar:

  • Bonner Scholars can pursue any major offered at their university. There are no restrictions on what you can study as a Bonner.
  • However, Bonners are encouraged to pursue majors and career paths focused on service and making a positive social impact. Common majors for Bonners include social work, education, nonprofit management, public health, political science, and environmental studies.
  • Beyond your major, Bonner Scholars are required to complete a certain number of volunteer service hours each semester. This service is meant to complement your studies and interests by providing real-world experience.
  • Bonners also take part in enrichment opportunities like retreats, workshops, and training on topics like social justice, leadership, civic engagement, and community building. This can further shape your perspective and interests.
  • Overall, the Bonner Foundation wants scholars to gain a diverse education and varied experiences to prepare them for a life of service and community leadership. An intentional major plus consistent service with thoughtful reflection can help realize this goal.
  • So while you can study anything as a Bonner, it’s encouraged to think holistically about how your major, service, and enrichment activities come together to guide your development. An advisor can help you plan this.

Can the Bonner Scholarship be combined with other financial aid or scholarships?

Yes, the Bonner Scholarship can generally be combined with other forms of financial aid or additional scholarships that a student receives. Here are some key points on combining Bonner with other funding:

  • The Bonner Scholarship is meant to help meet a student’s demonstrated financial need. It is not intended to displace or replace other aid.
  • Students are encouraged to apply for federal/state financial aid by completing the FAFSA. Bonner funds can work alongside any grants, loans, or work-study awards offered.
  • Bonner Scholars are also able to apply for and receive merit-based scholarships from their college or external organizations. These can supplement the need-based Bonner award.
  • If the total of a student’s financial aid and scholarships exceeds their demonstrated need, some adjustments may be required. But in most cases, Bonner + other funding is viable.
  • The student’s financial aid office and Bonner Foundation program advisor can help navigate any need for adjustments to ensure the scholarship complies with aid guidelines.
  • The key is maintaining open communication about all aid received so the Bonner Award integrates well as part of the overall package.
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Can you keep working an outside job as a Bonner scholar?

Yes, Bonner Scholars are allowed to have outside jobs in addition to their Bonner service requirements. Here are some key things to know about working as a Bonner:

  • Bonner Scholars commit to 10 hours per week of community service work through the program (divided between 2-4 sites). This is the primary responsibility.
  • Having an outside job is permitted as long as it does not interfere with a student’s academics or their ability to complete their Bonner service hours.
  • If employment does begin to impact academic performance or service commitments, the student will be asked to reduce their work hours.
  • Bonner service sites’ schedules may be flexible enough to accommodate a student’s job. Communication is key to making scheduling work.
  • Some on-campus jobs, like being a resident advisor, may align well with the Bonner program’s goals. These “service assistantships” can count for Bonner hours.
  • Off-campus jobs usually won’t count towards Bonner service hours but can provide additional income.
  • It’s recommended Bonner Scholars limit outside work to 10-15 hours per week to leave time for service, classes, and self-care.

Is the Bonner Scholarship only for volunteering or does it also cover internships?

The Bonner Scholarship is primarily focused on funding community service activities rather than internships. However, there can be some cases where internship work may partially count, if it aligns closely with the Bonner program’s goals:

  • The required 10 hours per week of Bonner service is meant to be volunteer work that helps meet community needs through nonprofits, schools, government agencies, etc.
  • Traditional internships that mainly focus on career development for the student would not normally count towards Bonner service hours.
  • However, some “service internships” with nonprofits/community organizations that involve direct volunteer work could potentially count, but likely only partially.
  • The extent to which an internship counts would be evaluated on a case-by-case basis looking at the activities and benefit to the community.
  • Any internship hours that displace the required volunteer service would need to be made up through additional service work.
  • Bonner Scholars can certainly pursue career-building internships, but these would be voluntary experiences beyond their funded service commitments.
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What happens if you are unable to complete the service hours due to an injury/illness etc?

If a Bonner Scholar is unable to complete their required service hours due to an injury, illness, or other extenuating circumstance, there are options to postpone or make up the hours:

  • The student should notify their Bonner advisor as soon as possible if they need to miss service due to health issues or another reason out of their control.
  • In the case of a short-term illness or injury, the advisor can assist with communicating with service sites and rescheduling hours once the student has recovered.
  • If it’s a long-term situation that will prevent service for an extended period, the student can apply for a temporary leave from the Bonner commitment. This pause would allow them time to recover before returning.
  • For a chronic health condition, ongoing accommodations can be made to modify the service commitment to fit the student’s physical abilities. Alternative virtual service options may also be available.
  • Missed service hours must eventually be made up through extra hours in the following semesters or over the summer. The advisor will develop a plan tailored to each student’s needs.
  • In extreme cases where a student must withdraw from school for medical reasons, the Bonner Scholarship could be put on hold and then reactivated once the student is able to return.

Can Bonner Scholarships be used for study abroad programs?

Yes, it is generally possible to use the Bonner Scholarship to help fund study abroad experiences, with a few specific guidelines:

  • The study abroad program must be approved for credit by the Bonner Scholar’s home institution. It can’t just be personal travel.
  • The normal service requirements (10 hrs/week) would not apply during the period abroad. Service hours would be suspended.
  • However, the student may need to complete some virtual service activities related to their experience when they return.
  • Any scholarship funds not used for the summer or semester abroad could potentially be applied to help cover program costs.
  • Students should have at least sophomore status and be in good standing in the Bonner program before pursuing study abroad.
  • An application would need to be submitted in advance describing how study abroad would further the student’s academic and service goals.
  • The study abroad plan would need approval from the campus Bonner coordinator and Foundation staff.


Make an impact through service. Open doors through education. That’s the Bonner difference. This one-of-a-kind program empowers students to change communities for the better while following their academic passions. If you’re seeking funds for college, trying to decide on a major, and hoping to gain real-world experience along the way, the Bonner Scholarship could be an ideal fit to make your college journey more affordable and meaningful. Apply today and discover how you can gain support for your education while creating positive change.

Hello, my name is Joseph Samaritan and I am a blogger who writes about various topics of interest, I have a passion for learning and sharing knowledge through my blog, I welcome feedback and comments on my posts and I look forward to engaging with you, thank you for visiting my blog and I hope you enjoy reading it.

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